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84                               THE GAY GENIUS

the army right into the village. But Wang Anshih was a great propa-
gandist; he knew that by giving a thing a new name, he made it cease
to exist. "Conscription was abolished."

Besides this collective registration and regimentation of the people,
there was also a new and compulsory registration oŁ the farmers' lands
as a basis for the new taxes, and a system of farming out the govern*
ment's cavalry to be cared for by die farmers. Like all other collec-
tivistic systems, Wang Anshih's administration could not leave the
people alone. In its anxiety to take good care of them, the government
had to know exactly what the people did and what they possessed. Like
all other collectivistic systems also, this regime found it impossible to
govern without secret agents, which were instituted in the year 1072,
luckily after Su Tungpo had left the capital. Nor was it able to operate
without bringing under control the imperial censorate, the equivalent
of the modern press, and packing it with the party's underlings who
were willing to follow strictly the party line. Again, Wang AnshiB
considered it necessary to control the thoughts and ideas of the scholars,
Like Wang Mang of the ancient days, and like the modern Hitler, he
had the idea of one state, one belief, and one leader. Like Hitler, he
exploded in fits of temper when he encountered opposition; modern
psychiatrists might classify him as a paranoiac.

What showed the "paranoid" character of the man, and what all
historians and critics agree to have been his one inexcusable act, was
not any of his political or socialistic ventures, but his setting up him-
self now as the one and only interpreter of the classics. As Wang Mang
re-edited and falsified the ancient classics, so now Wang Anshih wrot®
his own interpretation of three Confucian classics and made it the
official guide to thinking, to replace all the great commentators of the
past. Wang was a fairly good scholar, but not good enough to replace
the great masters of the past, such as Cheng Shuan, Ma Yung, Lu
Tehming, and others. To do this was both an abuse of his official power
and an insult to scholarship. The examination papers were usually
upon passages from the classics, and candidates' interpretations had to
conform. Setting up this new standard, therefore, meant that every
scholar of the land had to study and absorb what Wang Anshih said
on every topic, from principles of government and Buddhist-coloured
Confucianism to the etymology for "quail", "owl", and "pheasant^
After leaving the capital, Su Tungpo had once to supervise a local
examination, and wrote a poem recording his disgust with the deaden-
ing uniformity of thought and ideas expressed by the candidates in the
papers.                                                                                         i

Like his philology, Wang's New Commentaries on the Three Classics,
often savouring of Buddhist ideas, showed more originality than sound
scholarship. He believed, however, that in the interpretation of the